Writer’s Block? More Like Writer’s Verbal Diarrhea

I started my third manuscript the other week, the one I’m supposed to be saving for NaNoWriMo in November, and have been flying through the first chapters. I’m so excited to be seeing these characters develop on the page and their querky habits come to life.

Frying Pan? Maybe a Pen is the best weapon

Too much fun!

I figured since NaNoWriMo aims for 50,000 words in a month, that leaves me an additional 25,000-30,000 words to finish my manuscript. So that means I could get started on it ahead of time. But now I’m almost half-way to that word count threshold and we’re not even halfway through October.

In comparison to the other problems I’ve had in writing over the last few years, I think this is a dilemma I’ll love having. Writers block sucks the big one. So Writers Diarrhea is a gift (forgive the image).

I have no idea how I’ll respond if I’m ever a published author with deadlines looming ahead of me from a prized book contract. But if that were the case right now, I’d be one of the most treasured authors of any agent or editor’s lineup!

12 Steps for Writers Anonymous

Hi, my name is Susie, and I’m a writer.

It’s been 3 hours since I’ve written anything. And a good 3 weeks since I’ve written fiction. I know I’m breaking the rules by writing this very post.

I admit I will always be addicted to writing and feel a pull inside my soul to put a pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. But I need to be constructive, productive, relative, and any other ‘–ive’ that’s necessary to make my life- and writing- manageable.

I trust in a higher power, greater than myself, to restore my sanity after moments of writing and the lunacy that it sometimes ensues. I willingly turn my will, life, and pen over to the care of that higher power. The all-knowing muse that has my fingers continue to race over the keyboard.

I need to bring closure to my writing life by apologizing to any critiquers, editors, and agents, whom I may have snapped at for rejections or poor reviews. It came from an ignorant and bad place inside me, that I’m constantly striving to improve. And I’m sorry they were the targets of my negative energies.

I need to thank those who’ve supported me and believed I could be better, improve, and build upon my skills with a positive focus. Encouragement is essential, and I’m grateful for them.

I’m grateful for the sun, the moon, the air, light, food, chocolate, and a working charge in my laptop. But more importantly I’m grateful for my husband, my son, my parents, my brothers, my friends, my peers, my neighbors, and anyone else that has put up with my crazy antics and habits as a writer. Including writing snaps at midnight and the light that keeps others up, putting lunch or dinner on the table an hour late, or emotional breakdowns when scenes aren’t going right and I have to backtrack. I know I look like a toddler throwing a tantrum during those times, and I’m grateful they haven’t shoved me in a corner for a time-out. I’m grateful my time-outs involve a Diet Coke and a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup.

Sorry, Caden.

I apologize for the days I haven’t bothered to change out of my PJ’s and forget I’m not wearing a bra under my t-shirt and haven’t bothered to comb my hair for my trek to the mailbox, and thereby scare the neighborhood children playing in the street.

I’ve always been ready for the higher power to remove the bad habits I employ as a writer. I’m ready for Him to remove all adverbs from my vocabulary, instill an enduring sense of ‘show, don’t tell’ in my imagination, and remove a constant need for coffee in my nervous system. I ask the higher power to remove these short comings, and just allow my first sale to happen with the next ring of my iPhone. And let that sale be a six-digit paycheck, so I no longer have to suffer through the pains of my shortcomings.

I will continue to identify when I’m wrong, when my writing isn’t sufficient or entertaining enough, and believe that those I’ve hurt will carry on believing in me, and read my work. More importantly, I will continue to acknowledge when an editor or agent just doesn’t get my work, and the loss of a sale is on their shoulders, not mine. I will continue to try and reach the same level as James Patterson, Stephanie Meyer, and even JK Rowling, even though I know my writing has the potential to be better. And I’ll continue to pray for the higher power’s will and knowledge to teleport into my fingers and write the international bestseller that will put my addiction in a place where it is no longer insanity, but ingenious.

For the world will be a better place when I acknowledge my weakness, and force others to read it.

Cartwheels over Finished Rough Draft

Cartwheels, electric slide, general happy dance inspired by Steve Carrell, once again.

I finished my rough draft on Friday this week. While my husband and son went to sleep early, I pounded at the keyboard for another 3 hours to finish it. I had to keep up the roll I was on earlier in the week and it paid off. (I wish literally, but for now just figuratively). Don’t ask me how long it took me to complete the first draft. It’s embarrassing. But that doesn’t matter. What counts is that I finished it.

I’m under no illusions that this is ready to submit. Far from it. I have an ungodly amount of revisions to complete that I kept track of during the first crash course, and obviously I have to pass it through my writers group, trusty critique partner Kim, and a few others. Then revise. Then do it all over again. Then revise. And all over again once more. Then maybe… maybe,  I’ll be ready to submit to agencies again in January. That’s my goal, anyway.

And hopefully avoid the pesky slushpile. 

 

 

 

So for now, as the weekend winds down and I gear up for my writers meeting later today, I shall do the happy dance.

Commence Celebrate music…

“Ce-le-brate good times, come on! Duh, nuh-nuh-nuh, nuh, nuh-nuh-nuh, Weehoo!”

Doesn’t that just make you smile?

Inspirational Settings

In a few short days, I’m heading to this lovely island with my family.

Guess which island? Nope- not in the Caribbean. It’s actually not even tropical.

Hilton Head Island in South Carolina.

As I look at these photos knowing I’ll be playing on the beach with my son and hubby, it reminds me of the exotic and far away settings a lot of books have. I’m a big historical romance reader, so a lot of settings are in mist-covered castles all over Europe, all built against picturesque lakes, lochs, or cliffs. Those kinds of fanciful stories are a great escape from the every day life of toddler tantrums, runny noses, laundry, dishes, and fretting over potty training.

Then I compare these incredible settings to the ones in the stories I write. I write contemporary romance and romantic suspense. And they all take place in North Texas. Hardly exotic. And it brings up an interesting question in my mind. How can I love to read about unique settings and be thrown into fantasy worlds, but I write about normal people in every day settings? They could take place in a Normalville in any state. But perhaps its because I view contemporary hometowns (like mine) as my strength. Perhaps writing in far away islands or mountains is my weakness. I don’t know. I’ve never tried.

But they say to write what you know. And I know my state. I know my surroundings. And when I close my eyes and envision the setting my characters live in, I see Texas. And they always tell you to write what you see. Maybe that means I’m not very imaginative. And I’ll be the first to tell you that, if I truly am not as creative.

But then I widen my scope (literally, as I sit here and type this), and think of the vacations and exotic places I’ve been. And I’ve been to several. Heck, I’ve lived in several.

Maybe if I steal away a few precious, uninterrupted hours on my vacation I’ll try to write a short diddy in one of these locations: Curacao, Cancun, Cabo San Lucas, Belize, or Honduras. I mention Curacao first because its one of my favorite vacations I’ve ever taken. Pure white sands and the most awesome scuba diving ever. I could write a contemporary romance in that spot any day. But now I just have to imagine the characters and the jaw dropping storyline.

Any romance author or editor will always say setting is crucial; like another character intertwined in the storyline with its own personality and flavor. And I’ll admit, characters aren’t my forte. In the stories I’ve written I focus on the plot first and think secondly on characters. Which is why my local settings aren’t as creative. It’s like a tertiary character to which I hardly give any thought.

So that’s what the back of my mind will focus on while I’m bouncing around Hilton Head Island with my family. Widening my scope to more creative settings.

What about you? What settings capture you in your readings, and if you’re a writer, what places do you see in your mind?

Glass Slippers Waiting for RWA Conference

Thousands of writers, editors, agents, wanna be authors, and throngs more are headed to NYC today for the SuperBowl of the romance writing world: RWA Conference. (Romance Writers of America). And I’m turning an unusual shade of green that I don’t see on my own skin very often. When I’d rather be wearing a pair of glass slippers to such an important event in living the dream.

I’m a member of RWA. A newbie. First year. And I desperately wanted to go to this conference. Not just because I had a completed manuscript that I wanted to pitch, but these conferences are crown jewels for insights into the publishing world. Awards for the best published and unpublished works, workshops on improving your craft, Q&A sessions with editors and agents who provide invaluable tidbits into what they’re looking for/things they hate/quirks, and the main chance of the year to pow wow with the industry’s most successful and experienced gurus. Particularly since the publishing industry is changing so much with the increasing popularity of e-books, self-publishing, and all the controversy along with it. And I’d desperately want  a chance to wear my glass slippers (they’re blue, just for me!)

But as a fairly new writer living on one income, the expense was too much for my tightened financial belt. With the registration fees, flight, hotel, food, cabs, and inevitable souvenirs and gifts for my friends and families back home, I knew I couldn’t afford it. Cinderella must wait… again.

So now, as I anxiously twiddle my toes waiting for the 2012 conference in California, I’m watching the Twitter feed of everyone in NYC so I can live vicariously through the little blue bird on Twitter. The conference moves from city to city every year, and I’ll have to wait until 2014 until it comes even remotely close to home (2014 will be in San Antonio, TX). Waiting for the dream is so hard.

All I can do is keep dreaming, writing, researching, learning, hoarding self-help books, and reading other authors I admire. And keep my glass slippers ready.

How about you? Are you going to RWA Conference this year, or are you like me and waiting for the next one? Or are you rolling at your eyes at my envious Cinderella blog post?

Happy Dance Milestone in WIP

Writing

I have to share my happy dance moment today. My WIP (work-in-progress) that I’ve been working on for almost a year (ouch, hurts to admit its taken that long) is 65,000 words right now (200 pgs), and is about 3/4 of the way done.

Woo hoo!

It’s a contemporary romance (with a hint of suspense) about a springboard diver who has an accident, ends up in coma for 3 months, and when she wakes up, discovers that her life plans are taken. Stolen, really, by her rival: her NCAA title, her dream job, and the man she’s had a secret crush on for years. As she recovers and tries to pick up the pieces of her drastically altered life, she fights between finding (or settling) on different dreams, or trying to fight for the ones she had before.

I won’t give away the ending (because what kind of writer/aspiring author would I be if I did), but was the injury an accident, or sabotage?

(And by the way, I used to a springboard diver, so I’m qualified to write about that sport. They say, “Write what you know.”)

I shared this piece of accomplishment with my writer’s group buddies (Greater Fort Worth Writers) because I knew they’d understand this accomplishment and how much I’ve struggled with it. I’ve had weeks and weeks of writers block scattered throughout the last year, and had to go back and revamp several aspects of this manuscript as I discovered major flaws. (Which my writers group helped me find.) They’ve supported me, pushed me, motivated me, and *cracked the whip* to get my brain in gear to finish this thing.

I’m still not finished. But I’m much closer. There have been times of utter pain and disappointment with myself. Alas, I’m my harshest critic, but there are plenty of even harsher critics in the publishing industry that would give me a run for my brutal words (incase you newbies weren’t aware). And this is only the first draft. First drafts are always ugly, many times don’t even end up looking anywhere close to the final product. But many authors I read say that their first drafts are always the most difficult, most time-consuming, and most painful. Which I’m extremely glad to hear.

Because if there’s worse pain than this kind of mental agony, I might have to find another passion. (Nah, writing is too much fun, even during the painful parts).

And in case you’re wondering from my previous post about my main character having bi-polar due to battling themes, no I haven’t fixed that yet. I need to finish the first draft before I go back and fix her behavior. That will be part of the first revision.

But I did my happy-dance this morning (looked very much like Evan Baxter’s happy dance in Evan Almighty. Yes, I watched that movie and I love Steve Carrell).

I think everyone could use a little happy-dance in their lives, so I’m spreading the love.

Now, DANCE! *commence “Celebrate” music*

“Ce-le-brate good times, come on! Duh, nuh-nuh-nuh, nuh, nuh-nuh-nuh, Weehoo!”

Now, back to writing.

Keep writing forward, everyone!

Returning the Favor

Since I’ve been under a random version of writer’s block for the last few weeks, I’ve been practicing my critiquing skills for others. I figured it was a good way to pull myself out of my void of creativity by helping others with their WIP’s. Returning the favor.

Get away to write

My local writer’s group has a few chapters posted from members here and there, so I go there first to give my advice (as a reader) on ways to improve what they have. If you’re local to the Dallas/Ft Worth area, please come join us! Greater Ft Worth Writers

But recently over the last 2 weeks, I’ve become addicted to two different sites as well that was created specifically for that purpose. To get feedback on your work and help others with theirs.

BookCountry.com

Scribophile.com

BookCountry.com I was actually a betafish for the launch of the site and helping them fix bugs, create new features, and of course participate in the community (created by Penguin publishers). It’s recently been opened to the public and I highly suggest checking it out if you’re interested. It’s specifically for adult genre writing (i.e. no children’s books, Young Adult or Middle Grade). But they have romance, thriller, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, all that good stuff. You can follow individual writers, their works, or just follow certain discussion threads on a whole slew of topics. The really cool thing is that not only writers and authors are perusing the site, but also agents and editors too. It’s a great way to get visibility.

Scribophile.com is a whole other enticement. I found Scribophile from another author blog I followed who raved about the advice and support she received from Scribophile and the readers who critiqued her work. So I gave it a shot. LOVE IT!!

Scribophile works off Karma points. You have to earn 5 Karma points in order to post a chapter of your work, and you earn those points by critiquing others’ work. The longer your critique, the more Karma points you earn. But they do it in a very creative way to help you earn even more. Some writers offer higher critique points if you post a review over a 200 words from their own Karma bank. So if you wanted, you could search for the options with additional Karma points. Also, if you only wanted to critique Fiction Thrillers, you could search through just those. Just interested in short stories or poetry? You can peruse those as well. They make it very easy to access other people’s work in any filter you want. They also have writer’s circles and forums. If you wanted to connect with other Romance Writers, or Thriller Writers from New York, they have circles for that. If you wanted to post your work and have it only visible to that circle, you can do that. If you wanted feedback on your work, but only on certain aspects (i.e. plot, voice, characterization) you can specify that.

It’s an excellent site to get the kind of feedback you’re looking for. I’ve learned quite a bit so far, and I’ve only been actively perusing it for a few weeks. I HIGHLY suggest looking at that site if you’re writing, or want to write. But you have to be willing to review other writers’ works to get something out of it. And you learn a lot that way, by seeing other people write: their strengths, their weaknesses, and even get ideas for your own.

I’m hoping this gets me out of my writer’s block, or funk, or whatever the heck this is.

Even Muses need to read for Inspiration

I’ve been enjoying it and wanted to spread the love. Have a great week, my friends, and keep writing forward!

Head in the Clouds

Sunset, High Dynamic Range Image

Image via Wikipedia

Update from the Writers Conference fiasco.  The last posting discussed the silver lining of the literary agent willing to hear my pitch via phone, which I had on Saturday this past weekend.

I wasn’t quite on pins and needles like I’m sure I would have been for our in-person pitch session.  Over the phone seems a little less nervous.  But I was still a little anxious.  I knew my pitch, I know the manuscript backwards and forwards, know every little in-and-out of every character and setting.  But I’d never ‘pitched’ to an agent before. So when the call came around 1pm, my son was still napping, which I’m eternally grateful for.  To have a 2-year-old screaming in the background would have been a little mortifying (even if I had to huddle in my closet with my laptop in front of me). Funny picture? Yeah, that would have been me.

The call was fabulous! She had such great questions about my story, about my writing goals, and I loved the feel of the ‘conversation’ during the pitch.  It wasn’t me just talking about the story or myself.  It was a brief pitch of the story, and actual back-and-forth questions about it. Questions about what market I was targeting, other authors I thought it compared to, what her preferences were for the genre, etc. A nice discussion.

And now my head is in the clouds.  She requested the full manuscript. SWEET!!!! My first full MS request.

But, I know I can’t stay in the clouds for too long.  Because I don’t want to be dropped at 20,000ft.  I’d rather be dropped from 100ft. (Or not dropped at all, but always be prepared for every scenario, right?)  But I will say, the clouds are pretty up here!

*Sweet sigh* Back to writing I go!

Gearing Up for Writer’s Conference

I AM a Writer

Image by hopeleslie via Flickr

I have the exciting and nerve-wracking joy of gearing up for my very first writer’s conference at the end of February.  The DFW Writer’s Conference, hosted by the DFW Writer’s Workshop, has dozens of agents and publishers scheduled to attend, and I have anxiously submitted my request for which agents I would like to spend my 5-minute pitch session with (I get 1 session).  And the keynote speaker is *drumroll* Sandra Brown!  That’s right, people.  THE Sandra Brown!!!

I have a lot of the big stuff already taken care of.  I’ve registered, paid, have a finished manuscript (woohoo!), and perused the list of workshop titles I’d love to sit in on.  But I begin the strenuous task of creating my ‘pitch.’  I have 5 minutes with an agent/editor.  They suggest you make your pitch no more than 1-2 minutes, leaving the rest of the session for questions and/or feedback.  Essentially, I need to create an elevator pitch.  All sales folks know what an elevator pitch is.  But for you non-sales-oriented-folk, an elevator pitch is simply this:  if you’re in an elevator with the 1 decision maker on something you need, you normally only have about 4-5 floors of their undivided attention.  So you have 20 seconds (or however long it takes to go up 4-5 floors) to make your point.  Summarize your story in a gut-capturing way that makes it impossible for them to turn away. (Meaning, you make your pitch irresistible, not physically hold them hostage in the elevator- that just makes you creepy.)

So I need to shove my 71,000 word novel into a 2-minute teaser.  Sound easy?  It’s not.  At least not for me.  One of my biggest attributes is using 40 words to say something that should only take 10.  So that’s what I will work on over the next few weeks- my pitch.  And try to keep my skin from itching all over the place with anticipation for my first conference.

Writers conferences are a priceless wealth of information for all aspiring authors (and current authors).  The advice and real-life stories we get from others who have broken into the cutthroat publishing industry is more valuable than any self-help book sitting on my shelf today (according to those who have been to a conference).  I’d really love to go to the Romance Writers of America conference in New York in late Spring, but there’s no way I can afford that.  But can you imagine all of the visibility available at that conference?  Where most of the publishing industry is headquartered???  Oh that would be so wonderful!

But alas, *sigh* my dreams are big and will take time.  Small steps… and keep writing.

Taking a Quasi-Break

I decided to take a break from querying my first manuscript to agencies for the rest of the year.  Since most agencies are unofficially closed or partaking in necessary ‘house-cleaning’ duties until the New Year anyway, this is probably the best time to take a break, if I’m ever going to take one.

But I’m hoping that with the start of a new year, agencies (and publishers) will embrace a more accepting sentiment and give a closer eye to us writers who strive to be authors.  But that brings a conundrum to mind: with the constantly changing market, the advancement and popularity of ebooks, and the government discussing placing higher taxes on said ebooks (taxing literacy, I should say), will that force publishers and agencies to be even more selective on new clients (and potentially even current clients)?

Rumors, innuendos, whispers, and interpretations of the publishing industry by the media and the government makes it extremely difficult to answer that question.  All I can hope and pray is that readers’ desire for more great fiction- the incredible stories, compelling characters, and beautiful voices of the authors- will remain vibrant and unquenched, enticing them to buy/support/read more.

But at the end of the day, that would all be icing on the cake.  Because the heart of any cake is the sweet and fluffy center- the knowledge that I love to write.  It makes me feel better.  It makes me feel more like myself.  I feel as though I’m a better wife, better mother, better friend, better woman- better person.  And of all the ‘vices’ in this world, I think writing is a pretty productive one.

Enjoy the New Year everyone.  Keep writing forward.